Matthias Tshudy by H.M. Eberly as it appeared in the January 23, 1971 issue of the Lititz Record Express.
At long last the complete story of Matthias Tshudy has come to light. In an article published in the Journal of American Folk Lore in 1896 Charlotte C. Herr, the author, reveals many hitherto unknown facts in “All About Lititz.” She was a relative of the Tshudys and visited them often in the eighteen forties and fifties.
Matthias Tshudy (1771-1852) was an orphan boy and was educated and learned the weaving trade in the Brethren’s House. Where he got the idea of weaving wood is unknown, but he put it to good use. He was married when he was twenty-seven and bought the stone cottage at 46 Main Street (Doster’s in 1966 and Mathew 25 in 2010) that was built in 1782. He prospered in his new venture to the extent that in 1805 he built a two-story brick house on the east side of the cottage. How he got around the Church “zoning” rules is unknown but he now had a beautiful house that would be the home of five daughters and one son.
The demand for Tshudy’s chip baskets and chip plaited hats and bonnets became immensely popular throughout the south and his business extended as far as New Orleans. For a number of years the stone cottage was a beehive of activity for he was without competition. Unfortunately this has become a lost art and we can only guess at what woods or rushes were used and how they were woven.
Paul Doster was born in the brick house and knows its history well. His father, Israel, had Miksch put a tin roof over the pine shingles in the early 1900’s which is still doing good ser- vice. Beneath the shingles are thatches of rye straw that were probably put there for insulation. The cellar of both houses is practically cut out of pure lime stone. In fact the steps are cut from solid stone. The only reason a store room could be built beneath the present brick structure was because of the solid foundation. On the second floor the east wall of the stone cottage is still intact.
In Charlotte Herr’s article she would recall her visits to the attic of the stone cottage where there were many handsomely made large bins of polished walnut that held the grain for family use.
There were seventeen old sea chests there and she spent many hours poring over the woodcuts of old bibles and other old books and portraits. The thing she remembered best was that she emerged from this garret without accumulating a speck of dust. The stone house, she writes, had a wonderful capacity for concentrating cold in ALL season.
While Matthias Tshudy’s wife Catharine Blickensderfer was chosen for him through “lot”, the marriage evidently was a success for they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1843.
In Charlotte Herr’s article she described the Lititz of the 1850’s: Eastern Pennsylvania pos- sesses an old village which the writer regards with attachment founded on the unreasoning af- fection of childhood. Then as now one could not feel that here abode “sincerity, faith and con- tent,” together with unchanging and wonderful cleanliness and comfort in each and every household. This is Litiz, today spelled Lititz, whose earliest characteristic was the excellent boarding-schools founded more than a century ago and which still retain popularity.
Long since Bethlehem surpassed Lititz and became a prosperous town in spite of the headshak- ings of the villagers, more in sorrow than anger. Had not Lititz said when thirty years before it had been proposed to establish a new industry: “No indeed look at Bethlehem with its iron works and other mills, just ruined!” Accordingly, Lititz closed its eyes and folded its hands, again lulled to slumber by the babbling waters of “The Spring” as it flowed through the town. The sun shines on the same unbroken quiet, until at half past eleven the church bell calls the village to dinner, while the same exquisite cleanness is everywhere to be found.
You do not there find families who have turned the heritage of a name into English currency, as Tschantz and Zimmerman of adjacent towns appear as Johns and Carpenters. Rather would they revert to ancestral spelling, as I hear of a Tschudy who had reverted to Tshudi, after the shock of seeing that one of the branches which settled ‘out west’ in Ohio having succumbed to the prejudices of their neighbors, now writes their fine old name phonetically ‘Judy’. Here are the old-world-sounding names of Bomberger, Brubaker, Lichtenthaler, Longenecker, and the like.
Nor is there much change in the manner of living. “The things they are doing, their fathers have done”. They bake fahs-nachts on Fahs-nachts Day, being a light puffy doughnut boiled in lard. “One should be fed to the dog for luck, and if you grease all the iron implements with the fat left over they will never rust,” say the old wives. On Washington’s Birthday everybody has oysters for supper and lemonade reaches its zenith of favor at Fourth of July festivities.
To be a visitor meant a continuous flow of hospitable good will and good things. To “kill a chicken and fry sausage,” was the unwritten law of the land “when company comes.” Breakfast at six or seven was followed by “the nine o’clock piece” dear to the washerwoman’s soul, and dinner at half past eleven trod closely on its heels. At three o’clock “vespers was spread,” a meal of varied light bread, sweet cakes, and preserves, and supper at five closed a gastronomi- cally active day. Fainting nature was further sustained until bedtime by crisp pretzels, and any other light refreshments which might come under the head of what children called “handin’s round,” to say nothing of the fine ale for which the place was noted.
In Lititz they make a light bread known as sugar-cake and the baker with the biggest thumb makes the cavities to be filled with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stricelers were made for love-feasts. These were served from a capacious clothes-basket and dealt there- from the delicious flat sugar and cinnamon spread buns as big tea-plates.